I took it off for the first time as an experiment.
Since the day I was married, I wore my wedding ring constantly. I know many people take their rings off every night but that wasn’t me. I knew if I took my ring off, I’d lose it. So no matter where I was – the pool, the gym, the sink, the bed – I kept my wedding ring on.
As we gained financial stability, Shawn would ask me if I wanted a “nicer” ring someday. “No!” I always told him, emphatically. I loved that ring. “I don’t want a new ring,” I’d say to him. “This is the ring you gave me we were young and broke and totally in love. I never want a different one.”
That always made him smile.
When Shawn died, I did not take off my ring. Honestly, I didn’t even think about taking off my ring. Why would I do that? I was still married to Shawn, even if he was dead. I wasn’t suddenly putting “Ms” instead of “Mrs” in front of my name and I wasn’t taking off my ring.
But time passed. And so did my thinking about the ring.
Six months after Shawn died, I left my kids for a few days and booked a hotel room by myself. It was there that I first took off my ring.
I wrote about what happened, but to summarize, I met a man – the first one I’d found attractive since Shawn’s death. Because the ring was off, he saw me as a free, single girl. Which – technically – I was.
The next day, I put my ring back on. He saw me at the hotel restaurant that day and we chatted. “You’ve got your ring back on,” he said.
“Yes,” I said simply. We didn’t talk further about it. I knew I’d never see him again, so I didn’t need to elaborate.
For the next few weeks, I took the ring on and off a dozen more times. It’s funny because I wasn’t sure it was coming off for good when I finally stopped wearing it. I just decided to take it off one day and never put it back on.
It sat in my jewelry box for months.
“I need to do something with my ring,” I told Michelle and Becky one day last fall. “Like make it into something else, or have it re-set. I don’t know. Any ideas?”
“Well,” Michelle said, “I know a great jewelry shop. Maybe we should go there.”
We did. Of course they both came with me and we poured over different ideas with the shop owners. “You don’t have to decide today,” Michelle reminded me many times.
“What about something like this?” the shop owner asked. She showed me an image on her phone.
It was beautiful. “Yes,” I said, “that’s what I’m looking for.”
It still took a number of trips there and lots of personal reflection time, but eventually, I gave them my ring and asked them to make it into something new. (And because I love to plug places that do great work, it was Mystique Jewelers in Alexandria, Virginia. No, they do not know I am writing this. But they were kind and compassionate and did great work, and I want to recognize that.)
I went and picked up the new ring in early November. It was beautiful. They’d used a few extra diamonds from some earrings Shawn gave me, but the rest of the ring was comprised of pieces from my wedding band. It was different from the original piece. But I could still see my old ring in the new ring.
I wear the new ring on my right hand as a cocktail ring. I don’t always have it on, because it’s a bigger piece of jewelry and because I like to save it for special occasions. But I love that when I’m going out to an event or getting dressed up for some reason, I can carry a piece of Shawn with me.
“Are you going to wear it forever?” Claire asked me one night when I put it on.
“Probably,” I said. “I like that it’s similar to my wedding ring, but just a bit different. Because I’m not really married anymore, but Daddy will always be my husband. Does that make sense?”
She made a face. “But it looks like an old lady ring! It’s all twisty and messy and stuff,” she said.
I laughed. I was trying to tell her about the complications of widowhood. I was trying to explain how I often still feel married even though I’m not really married anymore. But sometimes those nuances are lost on a 9-year-old.
She took the ring in her hand and studied it. I felt her hand in mine, and thought about everything that the ring stood for, especially my marriage and my children. I held her hand tightly as she touched the stones in the ring.
That evening, I went out and I twirled the ring around my finger as I laughed into the wee hours of the morning over too many Moscow Mules. As the night ended, someone else held my hand. As he did, I could feel the coolness of my ring on his fingers. It was an odd feeling, because I felt Shawn with me in that moment, even as I sat next to someone new.
I wasn’t beginning a new life and leaving my old one behind that night. I was just holding the hand of a man who was not Shawn. In a way, I was trying out a new reality. I was experimenting with what the future might look like for me. One in which I’ll always be Shawn’s wife, but one in which I also might also reach toward someone who isn’t him.
Maybe that’s why I like the ring so much. It’s the past and the future, all wrapped together in one complicated web of “twisty messiness.” My daughter thinks it looks too complicated and crazy.
But I think it’s beautiful.